Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Symptoms of Well Contamination

World-renowned environmental scientist Dr. Theo Colburn and her team tested samples of recovered fracking fluid from wells and were able to identify nearly 600 chemicals deemed "proprieatary" and therefore not open to the public. Dr. Colburn states that these chemicals, including benzene, toluene and glycol ethers, may lead to many of the symptoms people who live near gas wells and have potentially contaminated wells are suffering from. My mother-in-law, who lives in Uniontown, PA, is one of those people. Below is information about the symptoms of benzene and glycol ether exposure and specific symtoms of peripheral neuropathy, which Colburn says is a definitive symptom of exposure to fracking chemicals. If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering the effects of air or water pollution from a gas well, there are blood tests available through your doctor for benzene, toluene, and many other fracking byproducts. You can also find water-testing companies in your area that have specific tests to evaluate drilling contamination. They aren't cheap, but what is the price for peace of mind?

Glycol Ether Effects- From EPA.gov
Acute Effects:
  • Acute exposure to high levels of the glycol ethers in humans results in narcosis, pulmonary edema, and severe liver and kidney damage. (1)
  • Acute exposure to lower levels of the glycol ethers in humans causes conjunctivitis, upper respiratory tract irritation, headache, nausea, and temporary corneal clouding. (1)
  • Animal studies have reported adverse effects on weight gain, peripheral blood counts, bone marrow, and lymphoid tissues from acute, inhalation exposure to 2-methoxyethanol. (2)
  • Acute animal tests in rats have shown 2-methoxyethanol to have moderate acute toxicity from inhalation and oral exposures. (3)
Chronic Effects (Noncancer):
  • Chronic exposure to the glycol ethers in humans results in fatigue, lethargy, nausea, anorexia, tremor, and anemia. (1,5,7)
  • Animal studies have reported anemia, reduced body weight gain, and irritation of the eyes and nose from inhalation exposure. (4)
  • Anemia and effects to the thymus, spleen, bone marrow, liver, and kidneys were reported in animals following oral exposure to the glycol ethers. (4,10)
  • EPA has not established a Reference Dose (RfD) for 2-methoxyethanol, 2-ethoxyethanol, or 2-butoxyethanol. (5,7,8)

Benzene Effects - from CDC.gov

Immediate signs and symptoms of exposure to benzene
  • People who breathe in high levels of benzene may develop the following signs and symptoms within minutes to several hours:
    • Drowsiness
    • Dizziness
    • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
    • Headaches
    • Tremors
    • Confusion
    • Unconsciousness
    • Death (at very high levels)
  • Eating foods or drinking beverages containing high levels of benzene can cause the following symptoms within minutes to several hours:
    • Vomiting
    • Irritation of the stomach
    • Dizziness
    • Sleepiness
    • Convulsions
    • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
    • Death (at very high levels)
  • If a person vomits because of swallowing foods or beverages containing benzene, the vomit could be sucked into the lungs and cause breathing problems and coughing.
  • Direct exposure of the eyes, skin, or lungs to benzene can cause tissue injury and irritation.
  • Showing these signs and symptoms does not necessarily mean that a person has been exposed to benzene.
    Long-term health effects of exposure to benzene
  • The major effect of benzene from long-term exposure is on the blood. (Long-term exposure means exposure of a year or more.) Benzene causes harmful effects on the bone marrow and can cause a decrease in red blood cells, leading to anemia. It can also cause excessive bleeding and can affect the immune system, increasing the chance for infection.
  • Some women who breathed high levels of benzene for many months had irregular menstrual periods and a decrease in the size of their ovaries. It is not known whether benzene exposure affects the developing fetus in pregnant women or fertility in men.
  • Animal studies have shown low birth weights, delayed bone formation, and bone marrow damage when pregnant animals breathed benzene.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that benzene causes cancer in humans. Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene in the air can cause leukemia, cancer of the blood-forming organs.

Effects of Toluene Exposure - from EPA.gov
Acute Effects:
  • The CNS is the primary target organ for toluene toxicity in both humans and animals for acute and chronic exposures. CNS dysfunction (which is often reversible) and narcosis have been frequently observed in humans acutely exposed to low or moderate levels of toluene by inhalation; symptoms include fatigue, sleepiness, headaches, and nausea. CNS depression and death have occurred at higher levels of exposure. (1)
  • Cardiac arrhythmia has also been reported in humans acutely exposed to toluene. (1)
  • Following the ingestion of toluene a person died from a severe depression of the CNS. Constriction and necrosis of myocardial fibers, swollen liver, congestion and hemorrhage of the lungs, and tubular kidney necrosis were also reported. (1)
  • Acute exposure of animals to toluene has been reported to affect the CNS as well as to decrease resistance to respiratory infection. (1)
  • Acute animal tests in rats and mice have demonstrated toluene to have low acute toxicity by inhalation or oral exposure. (1)
Chronic Effects (Noncancer):
  • CNS depression has been reported to occur in chronic abusers exposed to high levels of toluene.  Symptoms include drowsiness, ataxia, tremors, cerebral atrophy, nystagmus (involuntary eye movements), and impaired speech, hearing, and vision.  Neurobehavioral effects have been observed in occupationally exposed workers. (1,2)
  • Effects on the CNS have also been observed in studies of animals chronically exposed by inhalation. (1,2)
  • Chronic inhalation exposure of humans to toluene causes irritation of the upper respiratory tract and eyes, sore throat, dizziness, headache, and difficulty with sleep. (1,2)
  • Inflammation and degeneration of the nasal and respiratory epithelium and pulmonary lesions have been observed in rats and mice chronically exposed to high levels of toluene by inhalation. (1)
  • Mild effects on the kidneys and liver have been reported in solvent abusers chronically exposed to toluene vapor.  However, these studies are confounded by probable exposure to multiple solvents. (1,2)
  • Slight adverse effects on the liver, kidneys, and lung and high-frequency hearing loss have been reported in some chronic inhalation studies of rodents. 

Peripheral Neuropathy from NIH.gov

Symptoms depend on the nerve that is damaged. Symptoms also depend on whether the damage affects one nerve, several nerves, or the whole body.
Tingling or burning in the arms and legs may be an early sign of nerve damage. These feelings often start in your toes and feet. You may have deep pain. This often happens in the feet and legs.
You may lose feeling in your legs and arms. Because of this, you may not notice when you step on something sharp. You may not notice when touch something that is too hot or cold. You may not know when you have a small blister or sore on your feet.
Damage to the nerves can make it harder to control muscles. It can also cause weakness. You may notice problems moving a part of your body. You may fall because your legs buckle. You may trip over your toes.
Doing tasks such as buttoning a shirt may be harder. You may also notice your muscles twitch or cramp. Your muscles may become smaller.
People with nerve damage may have problems digesting food. You may feel full or bloated and have heartburn after eating only a little food. Sometimes you may vomit food that has not been digested well. You may have either loose stools are hard stools. Some people have problems swallowing.
Damage to the nerves to your heart may cause you to feel lightheaded, or faint, when you stand up.
Angina is the warning chest pain for heart disease and heart attack. Nerve damage may "hide" this warning sign. You should learn other warning signs of a heart attack. They are sudden fatigue, sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, and vomiting.
Sexual problems. Men may have problems with erections. Women may have trouble with vaginal dryness or orgasm.
Some people may not be able to tell when their blood sugar gets too low.
Bladder problems. You may leak urine. You may not be able to tell when your bladder is full. Some people are not able to empty their bladder.
You may sweat too much. This may happen when the temperature is cool, when you are at rest, or at other unusual times.

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